Footloose – Spa Pavilion Felixstowe

The theatre summer school model is always going to be a challenge, rehearsing and staging a full blown musical in just two weeks. Now in its eighth year, the Spa Pavilion Felixstowe’s Summer Youth Project is one of the region’s most established projects. This year turning its attention to the stage adaptation of the 1980s classic Kevin Bacon film Footloose.

In a town where dancing has been banned, out of town newcomer Ren dances up a storm as he tries to come to terms with the hidden secrets that have torn the town apart. No the plot isn’t exactly deep but the movie does work in a stage incantation.

Featuring a string of 80s classic songs this is a strange hybrid of jute box musical and dance show and at times it is an uneasy marriage.

Now the ambition has to be admired and the participants throw themselves into the production with vigour but this Footloose never quite hits the mark. Given the dance based nature of the show it is in the smaller scenes, rather than the full-on dance routines, that the show is strongest.

In these smaller scenes there are some nice performances; George Jennings as the town’s moral guardian Reverend Shaw and Joanna Brown as his wife Vi both giving powerful performances. Vicky Jam as their daughter Aria also turns in a strong vocal performances while Wade Ablitt provides a suitably comic turn as Willard Hewitt.

Some of the other performances need a bit more confidence to reach the rear of the Spa auditorium and some of the comedy is lost in the exuberance.

Director Rebecca Darcy has obviously had a lot to cram into the two week rehearsal period and perhaps with a longer period could have delved deeper into characterisation. Richard Healey’s musical direction drives the songs along with pace but again perhaps needs a bigger sound to fill the Spa. Some issues with sound and lighting also marred the first night.

For Footloose to really work we need to see a community divided and understand the clash of age and cultures, it’s the age old tale of young versus old, city versus country and something we never quite feel in this production. While this project should be congratulated for giving young people a chance to perform on stage and we can admire what they have achieved in two weeks more attention is needed in the detail. Past projects such as We Will Rock You show what can be achieved but Footloose never quite reaches this standard.

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